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Getting a Taxi in Cuenca Ecuador - the Nitty-Gritty - UPDATE 2016
We have more to share with you today about taking taxis in Cuenca Ecuador. This post was first published December 2011.
Update 2016 - Frugal Frank and family take taxis once in awhile! Can you believe it? Well, it just goes to show when you put meters in the taxis the price becomes fare (fair) again.
Update 2016- Before we moved to Ecuador we never took a cab so it was all new to us. There's a lot of ways you can hail a cab but we do it like the Ecuadorians.
How to hail a cab like an Ecuadorian: When you see a cab driving toward you, hold out your arm and point down to the ground. If the driver doesn't stop it means he already has a fare in the car.
TIP: Even though there are now meters in Cuenca we stick our head inside to make sure the cab actually does have a meter and then we always tell him where we need to go because sometimes they don't want to go where you need to go.
In Panama we experienced something just a bit different. The cabbies will sometimes pick up another fare when you are in the cab going to your destination. We've ridden with other people on several occasions when we traveled to Panama. The problem with that is it can be risky. Who knows who the driver just picked up off the street. They usually will ask you first if it is ok, however.
In Cuenca Ecuador they don't pick up more than one fare at a time and so you will not have to worry about that and it is much safer.
Guideline for Taking a Cab in Cuenca Ecuador
1. Only hop into metered cabs.
2. Call radio cab (on call cab) during holidays and fiestas or you might wait a long time.
3. If outside of Cuenca be careful about grabbing just any cab off the street. Best to call a radio cab.
Update 2016 - With meters in the cabs you can go from one side of town (west side) clear to the east side for $4; and short distances around the city from $2 to $3. Unfortunately during holidays and when its raining certain drivers like to turn off the meter and just charge you a flat fee; tell him "No gracias" and hail another cab.
Understand that if you're out during peak hours, there is more hanky-panky with not wanting to turn meters on, and trying to get fat err.. flat rates from foreigners. These would be: weekends, after dark, during rains. etc.
There are over 4,500 taxis in Cuenca alone! That’s a lot of taxis. There is never a problem getting a taxi when you need one, at least most of the time. The taxi service in Cuenca is quite efficient except during holidays and festivals. We have experienced a much longer wait during these times. Still true.
Is Hailing a Taxi off the Street Safe in Cuenca?
A question we get asked sometimes is if hailing a taxi off the street is a safe thing to do in Cuenca. And our answer is always the same, “Yes it is”. However, hailing a taxi off the street in Manta, Quito or Guayaquil and even Portoviejo is not a safe practice and we do not recommend that anyone just hop into a taxi off the street in these big cities of Ecuador. It’s unfortunate but also a real scary truth that you cannot trust taxis in these areas of Ecuador. Do your due diligence and stay safe!
Update 2016 - Still stands true today.
3 Reasons for Calling Radio Cabs
Rumor (was) going around in Cuenca is to always call a radio cab for safety reasons. What’s funny about this is if you hop into a yellow cab in Cuenca it is already registered with the city and so it is a “radio cab”. The purpose for “radio cabs”, which is what ALL THE TAXIS ARE ANYWAY, is…
1. …to have the convenience of having a favorite driver who may speak English.
2. …to not have to stand around on the street hailing a taxi since they come to you.
3. …and because the same cab driver will charge the same fee to you. This doesn't apply to Cuenca since they now use meters but other areas of Ecuador it may apply.
All of which are very good reasons for having the same driver. Hence-"radio cab".
Update 2016 - Almost every cab we take in Cuenca has installed a camera and a panic button; don't think it can get any safer than that. We're not concerned for our safety in the least when taking a cab in Cuenca.
Things NOT to do when flagging Down and Taking a Taxi in Cuenca or anywhere else living abroad.
1. Never get into an unmarked taxi cab!
2. Always ask the price first, or know the price and have exact change.
3. Tone down the English until you have been told what the rate is.
4. Don’t pull out a wad of cash in front of the driver.
5. Do not brag about where you are staying and the expensive restaurants you are eating at with the driver or amongst yourselves. Some things are best left unsaid.
6. Do not hand the driver anything but the EXACT change!
Only newbie gringos hand a taxi driver a $20 bill. I'm not saying its the end of the world, but its bad practice. Almost every single time we've seen a gringo do this, the driver reacts the same. i.e. "Oooohhh, big spender, eh?" etc. etc. It's up to you what kind of impression you make. Think of the rule of THREE AND FOUR, a $20 here is like $100 up north.
7. It is best to, either know the price ahead of time and hand the driver that amount at the end of the ride, or ask what the fee is BEFORE you get into the taxi, knowing what the approximate fare SHOULD be. Remember this is not necessary with metered taxis, unless you're in peak hour and they don't want to turn it on. Best to avoid peak hours. It just promotes the idea that its ok to turn down metered work.
8. Speak Spanish if you can and act like you know where you are going.
Just the other day we went to the Cuenca airport to pick up a friend. Heading outside we see about 10 or 12 taxis all lined up waiting for fares. We asked the first guy how much the rate was to take us where we needed to go and he quoted $4.00 for a cab ride we knew should only be $2.50 to $3.00 at the most.
So we simply said, “No thanks” and went to the next taxi in line, who said they would take us for $2.50. We happily climbed into the taxi and paid the real rate, not the inflated gringo rate.
Update 2016 - All guidelines still stand true today when taking taxis when living anywhere abroad.
Until we write again...we hope you enjoyed this update today. Stick around and check out these other tidbits about taking a taxi in Ecuador.
We're an expat family of five living frugal, healthy and happy in Cuenca Ecuador. We vlog about what our life is like abroad, never leaving out any of the nitty-gritty details. We do not blow smoke but tell it like it is. So come along on the adventure. All Aboard!
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